Crisis button pushed as PM swaps Westminster for wellies

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David Cameron has responded to Britain's flooding emergency - but was it all too late?
David Cameron has responded to Britain's flooding emergency - but was he too late? Photo: Matt Cardy/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Examine for a few moments the Prime Minister's schedule over the last 36 hours.

Four locations in the south west yesterday. A stay overnight in Exeter. Visits to Dawlish and Somerset this morning and then to Staines on River Thames by lunchtime.

And late this afternoon, David Cameron will hold a press conference in Downing Street.

David Cameron with a local and Kwasi Kwarteng (left), the MP for Spelthorne, on a flooded street in Staines-upon-Thames.
David Cameron with a local and Kwasi Kwarteng (left), the MP for Spelthorne, on a flooded street in Staines-upon-Thames. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

You don't have to be a genius to conclude that Number 10 decided - perhaps at the end of last week - that events were escalating out of control and it was time to clear the Prime Minister's diary.

You might argue with some justification - as Mr Cameron did last week - that his time is, in fact, better spent in Whitehall: co-ordinating the efforts of various government departments, dispatching the pumps, listening to advice from the weather experts.

But in politics, things can get pretty serious if ministers look like they're not doing enough - and the people conclude they definitely are not doing enough.

David Cameron and South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray (right) speak with a resident at Kingsland in the south west.
David Cameron and South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray (right) speak with a resident at Kingsland in the south west. Credit: LUKE MACGREGOR/WPA Rota/Press Association Images

Just ask Tony Blair how events turned against him during the fuel strikes more than a decade ago.

The perception of the government's response to the floods was helped in no conceivable way by that ugly and public spat between the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles and the chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith.

Read: Hundreds more Thames properties could be flooded

The anger of anyone unlucky enough to suffer the misery and misfortune of flooding at home can explode - as we have seen in our reports - if they feel the government is not straining every sinew to deal with their problems.

David Cameron speaks to residents whose homes were damaged during recent storms at Kingsand in south west England.
David Cameron speaks to residents whose homes were damaged during recent storms at Kingsand in south west England. Credit: LUKE MACGREGOR/WPA Rota/Press Association Images

That effort is now on show on our TV screens in a way in which it was not last week.

If is often written that David Cameron is 'very good in a crisis'. That maybe so. And the crisis button has now been pushed inside Downing Street.

But it's hard not to ask the question: why was the crisis button not pushed a week ago?

Read: Cameron says money no object for floods clean-up